8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Government endeavour to provide special facilities to enable the builders’ labourers’ case to be heard beforethe Federal Industrial Court? There is a strike in the building trade in South Australia, and, I think, in every other State, and there is groat difficulty in obtaining a hearing of the dispute.
– I am afraid that my honorable friend has touched upon a very troublesome question.
– As I said the other day, the difficulty of getting to the Court is creating industrial unrest.
– In my opinion, the Court has completely broken down. If we go on asat present, we shall want a Court for each State, and ‘half-a-dozen within a State. I shall see what oan be done to facilitate the matter.
“ARC” WIRELESS SYSTEM.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The manufacture of Anzac tweed has, under an agreement, been handed over to a Trust composed of members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and the question of extension, if any, is more a matter for. that body. The Trust referred to determines how, and on what conditions, the output of the tweed factory shall be distributed.
Adjournment of Parliament
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
In order to allow Federal members from the most distant parts of Australia to be present in their own States during the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to such States, will the Prime Minister endeavour to arrange for this Parliament to go into and remain inrecess during the whole term of the visit of His Royal Highness to Australia?
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Brennan) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the machinery adopted by the Government for fixing the price of wheat?
Is it done by regulation or proclamation; and, if either, can the Minister supply dates and particulars?
At what precise stage does the fixation take effect?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it intended to extend the Postal Institute, as established in Victoria, to other States?
– Yes; as soon as the necessary accommodation is available.
Insurance and Exchange
asked ‘the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Ref erring to replies given on the 14th April last to the questions of the honorable member, for Yarra in connexion with sugar, will the Minister give full particulars as to insurance and exchange charges for the 70,000 tons of sugar imported from Java and Fiji?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
On the 66,000 tons of sugar imported from Java the insurance rate varied from 9s. 9d. per cent. to 10s.11d. per cent., and the exchange from 15s. per cent. to 17s. 6d. per cent.
On the 4,000 tons of Fiji sugar the rate of insurance was 8s. per cent.; exchange, nil.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it true that the Government propose to issue square-shaped instead of round nickel coins?
– No decision has yet been arrived at in regard to this question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The award does not become operative until it has lain on the table of the House for thirty days.
Land Settlement and War Service Homes
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether all munition workers who embarked from the Commonwealth for service abroad, either under direct contract with the Government or otherwise, participate in the Land Settlement and War Service Homes provisions ?
– Recently the Government undertook to make available to those munition and war workers who went abroad at the invitation of the Defence Department, or under a specific contract with it, who may desire to go upon the land, the advance of £625 it now makes available in respect of returned soldiers provided the several State Governments agreed to include them in their land settlement schemes. The State Governments have been invited to make this provision, and New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania have agreed to do so. A reply is being awaited from the South Australian Government. The classes above referred to have been included in the provisions of the War Service Homes Act.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable to answer this question in its present form, for the reason that communicationsare continually being received from the Central Wool Committee.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government is prepared to allow to the Australian wool-growers in respect of the wool supplied to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company under contract for the manufacturing of wool tops, the same share of profits in such wool as if it formed part of the wool sold to the Imperial Government?
In Committee (Consideration resumed from loth April, vide page 1263) :
Clause 7 agreed to.
1 ) The Commission shall consist of three members who shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
A duly authenticated organization, recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body representing returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth, may submit to the Minister a list containing the names of not less than three persons from which the organization recommends that a selection be made of a person to be appointed as one of the Commissioners, and the Governor-General may appoint a person selected from that list to be one of the Commissioners.
– I was glad to hear the Ministersay last night that there was no justification for the statement in the press that persons had already been selectedas members of the Commission, and I then expressed the hope that those whose names had been mentioned would neither be prejudiced nor favoured thereby. Every applicant has the right to a fair run. Sub-clause 2 provides that a duly authenticated organization recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as representing returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth may submit to him the names of not less than three persons from which a selection is recommended of the person to be appointed a Commissioner, and the Governor-General may appoint as one of the Commissioners a person selected from that list. In my opinion, no organiza tion should be recognised as the only body eligible to submit names. As I have already pointed out, the trade unions represent from 70 per cent. to 100 per cent. of the workers in the various trades that are organized, but the Victorian Government has never asked them to recommend persons for appointment to Wages Boards. Instead of that being done, a ballot of those employed in a trade has been taken, and there should be a ballot of the soldiers to ascertain the name of the person whom they would recommend for the position of Commissioner. Later, I shall move an amendment to that effect.
– I do not know whether the Minister has given the reason for the appointment of a Commission of three members. I understand that originally pensions claims were dealt with by a Board of three, but that it was found more convenient to allow the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in each’ State to deal with the work, and that the determination of questions ‘arising in connexion with the granting of pensions has thus been considerably facilitated. A Commission of three members with a quorum of two would require the investigation of every case by at least two persons; and that would be likely to occupy more time than if the work were done by one person. I am informed that in Victoria alone pension cases are being dealt with now at the rate of about 1,000 a week. In New South Wales the number would be greater, and there are the other States as well.
– Are you referring only to war pensions?
– I am referring to soldiers’ pensions. The Minister may reply that very soon all cases will have been dealt with, at any rate, so far as the initial stages are concerned. But he must be aware that in connexion with old-age pensions and war pensions the review of cases has occupied a considerable time. It is unwise to depart from the salutary rule of allowing one man to deal with all minor cases. No doubt it is necessary that major and special cases should be dealt with by the Commission as a body, but if one member is able to deal with minor cases and details the work will be expedited, and the soldiers will benefit accordingly. I am afraid that the provision that two members shall form a quorum will mean that no action can be taken by a Commissioner in the absence of a quorum, and the appending of two signatures to every minor matter will mean delay. Two men, however intelligent, will take longer to deal with a matter than will one competent person.
– This clause deals geueally with the Commissioners, and covers the whole activities of the Repatriation Department. Those activities include war pensions. But I take it that the Commissioners themselves will decide how the work shall be dealt with. For instance, they may agree that one of their number shall deal with pensions, allowing an appeal from his decision to the full Commission. So far as I can sea, there is nothing in the clause or in the Bill to prevent the Commissioners apportioningthe work exactly as the honorable member has suggested.
– What is meant by the provision that two shall form a quorum?
– That refers to the official administration of -the Department. If there is anything in the honorable member’s objection, we may have an opportunity to review the clause at a later stage.
:. - I support the objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to sub-clause 2. It is- well known to honorable members that there is more than one returned soldiers’ organization in the Commonwealth, and it seems arbitrary that the Minister should pick out one, and give to it the right to nominate a representative of re!turn.ed soldiers. That provision is likely to lead to dissatisfaction, and cause some soldiers to lose faith in the Repatriation .Commission. I urge the Minister to accept £he suggestion that all soldiers should have a right to vote for the selection of their representatives on the Commission, just as all th© members engaged in a trade are allowed to ballot for the election of ru representative on a. Wages Board. I do not say that the Minister will be prejudiced in his selection of a man, but the fact remains that according to this clause the Minister will have to pick out one organization as officially representing all returned soldiers.
– I move -
That iii sub-clause 2 the words “ A duly authenticated organization, recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body representing “ be struck out.
If the amendment is carried, I shall then move to insert the words, “A ballot shall be taken of.” The sub-clause will then read that a ballot shall be taken of returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would that he practicable?
– At any rate, all soldiers should be given the opportunity of selecting their representative. I would not hand -over to the executive of one organization the right to make a choice. There is not one State in which there are not two or more organizations of returned soldiers, and the strongest body in one State is not necessarily the strongest in others. I have no quarrel with any of them, but I think that all returned soldiers should be placed on an equality. There was a great deal of heart-burning at the recent conference of returned soldiers in Adelaide. Some branches of the parent organization have broken away, and in the words of industrial unionism they have been declared “ black.” In otherStates the parent organization has been declared- “ Mack.”
– Would not the honorable member’s object be obtained hy eliminating the words. “ recognised or acknowledged by the Minister”?
– The Minister would still have to- recognise one organization, and I object to that.
– That is not what is meant. “A” means ‘“any.”
– This sub-clause means that the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association will make the selection. I do not think that would bo wise. If the amendment is carried repatriation will be placed on a better footing than if the sub-clause is agreed to in its present form.
.- A simpler way of attaining the object aimed at by the Leader of the Opposition would be to omit the words “A duly authenticated’ organization,” and insert in- lieu thereof “Any organization.”
– That is what the subclause means now.
– No. If that amendment were made it would obviate the necessity for the Minister to inquire into the character of an organization in order to certify that it was duly authenticated, and it would save him from any suspicion of political bias or influence in selecting one organization in preference to another. Am organization must be “ duly authenticated” by somebody, and that somebody must be outside the organization itself. This means, of course, that the Minister will have to decide whether an organization is “duly authenticated”; but my suggestion leaves it open to any organization throughout the Commonwealth to submit three names. Even supposing an organization represents only a fraction of the soldiers, what harm is done by allowing that organization to submit three names, seeing that the power or discretion of the Minister is not curtailed in any way? A wider latitude would he given and the possibility of any favoritism or political patronage prevented. Further, if my suggestion is accepted it will remove the necessity for a ballot, which, though in theory admirable, is a cumbersome and expensive method of arriving at a decision. Already there are too many elections in Australia. The returned soldiers are scattered all over the Com- monwealth, and we can quite imagine what it would mean to take a ballot of allthe returned soldiers from the far north of Queensland to the remote limits of Western Australia. Every soldier, or nearly every soldier, is connected with some organization; and my suggestion opens the door toall, while, asI havealready said, the power or discretion of the Minister is not interfered with in any way. This seems to me a very simple way out of the difficulty.
– I have every sympathy with the desire of the Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Tudor), that the returned soldiers shall he asfully represented as possible on this Commission - that the members ofthe Commission shall be persons satisfactory to the great majority ofthe men. Unless the soldiers are satisfied in this direction how can we hopeto make an ultimate success of repatriation ? The closer we get to the soldiers, and the more knowledge we have of their desires, the more we can hope that the objects we all have in view will be attained. I cannot help thinking, however, that it would be quite impracticable to take a ballot. I agree that there might be some trouble if the words “ duly authenticated” are allowed to remain, because it is clear that some one will have to give a certificate on the point. It would be a good idea to accept the suggestion of the honorable member forKalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon), for inthis way we should have nominations from bodies representing all the returned soldiers. There are not many who do not belong to some association or another by this time; and, at any rate, the suggestion would give as complete a representation as any ballot would. Even if it were decided to hold a ballot, I am afraid a great many of the men would fail to vote.
– That is their look-out.
– In any case, I do not think the expense of a ballot is worth while, and, moreover, it would take a long time to carry out, while showing no greater representative result.
– I ask the Committee to retain the clause as drafted. The desire is to have members on. the Commission representative of the general body of returned soldiers; and on the Minister is cast the obligation to be satisfied, before he makes an appointment, that hehas a nominee from a thoroughly representative organization. As to a ballot, I quite agree with what is said by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon). The men are scattered all over Australia, working their wayup into the remote parts of Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, and we all know the time and expense involved in organizing for a general election. Any Returned Soldiers Association is generally organized on a Federal basis, and is, therefore, able to make definite representations to the Government of the day. There is a similar provision in regard to the State Boards, with whichwe have to deal later, and the sole object is to have these bodies as representative as possible.
– But the proposed amendment does not obviate the difficulty.
– I should he pleased to withdraw ray amendment in favour of the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon).
– I urge the Committee not to accept either amendment.
– The nomination by an association is, after all, only a recommendation, and the nomination of the most representative organizations will have most weight.
Mi-. GROOM.- We ought to be sure that the recommendations come from Organizations of weight.
.- It would seem that the minds of the supporters of the clause are not big enough to realize that Australia is a very large place, and that it is necessary that the representation of the soldiers on this Commission should be as nearly perfect as possible. Unless proper representation of the men is secured, there must be much discontent. They are all strongminded men, who have seen something at the other side of the world, and they have now a larger conception of their position in the community. The amendment, in my opinion, would remove a cause of possible friction, and we realize that the men themselves must feel that the members of the .Commission are heart and soul with the repatriation cause. The success of the scheme depends on those who are made responsible for its administration, and they, of course, must be men in whom the soldiers have every confidence. Even should there be dissatisfaction with the personnel of the Commission, the men would have the consolation of knowing that they had had a voice in its selection if the amendment be adopted. I do not like the clause as it is at present, and either of the amendments approaches what I desire.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment in favour of the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon).
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,
.- I move -
That the words “A duly authenticated,” line 4, be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “Any.”
I also desire to move the omission of the words, “recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body.”
.- I take it that the object of this clause is to secure that the soldier appointed upon the Commission shall be truly representative of the soldiers of Australia, and I think the amendment will attain that end. Any organization may make a recommendation. It is only a recommendation, after all, for the guidance of the Government; and, naturally, the organization which, in the opinion of the Minister for Repatriation, most truly represents the Soldiers will receive the greatest consideration. The Minister would attach more importance to the proposal of a large and influential Organization than to the recommendation of a body which may represent only a few returned men.
– All the returned soldiers’ organizations might jointly recommend one man.
– So much the better, but this amendment would secure that the appointed soldier, whoever he might be, and by whomever he might be recommended, would be representative of all the soldiers in Australia.
.- I am inclined to vote against the whole clause. We have been informed by the Minister that the bulk of -the work has been already completed, and that the task of repatriation is well in hand. That being so, why create a new Commission? We have been told that the present body has done excellent work. What better work will the new Commission perform? Will it change (the policy upon which the present Commission ‘has based its efforts? I have been careful hitherto not to criticise the work of the Commission, realizing that it has faced a gigantic task. But I say now that the Commission has really done nothing very big or important. Week after week it has paid out sustenance money. In Sydney, I have often seen hundreds of men waiting to make their frequent and regular registrations, in order that they should not be deprived of the sustenance allowance. Had the Commission done something really big, had it subsidized municipal bodies, or even ‘ Government Departments, to carry out public works, and so provide employment for hundreds >>f returned men, it would have had a much more successful record. All the money paid out by way of sustenance has been really wasted. There should have been a bold policy undertaken in establishing definite national works; but no effort has been made in that direction. If we appoint a new Commission at high salaries, and for a long period, are we guaranteeing ourselves better results? I am prepared to assist any Commission to solve the problem of repatriating all our men; but what qualifications are the proposed new Commissioners to possess in order to secure appointment?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine himself tothe amendment. The clause itself is not now before the Committee.
– The first line of the clause has to do with the appointment of three Commissioners, and it is upon that first line that I am basing my remarks.
– An amendment has been movedby the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) for the omission of certain words. 1 must, therefore, for the time being, require the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment. He will have an opportunity later to speak to the whole clause.
– My contention is that provision for the appointment of three new Commissioners is unnecessary. Let the present body carry on for the next twelve months or so, by which time, apparently, the work will have been established upona permanent basis. Unless the Government can indicate the nature of the qualifications which it will seek in the new Commissioners-
– Order ! I am loath to intervene, but must again ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
– I will take a later opportunity to discuss the principle contained in the clause as a whole. If returned men are to be consulted with respect to the appointments of the new Commission, those appointments should be made upon as broad a basis as possible. I hope the Government will not be guided merely by the recommendation of the largest body of returned soldiers, but will look first to the qualifications of the nominees. The sole fact that a nominee is a returned soldier who has the confidence of the largest organization, should not be sufficient.
.- Since I have been “closely in touch with very many returned soldiers, and am familiar with their immediate wants and future requirements, I am of opinion that the amendment will sufficiently meet their case as far as representation on the Commission is concerned. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has stated that he sees no reason why the present Commission, which has done such good and useful work, should not continue. I am satisfied that we are only now entering upon our grave responsibilities so far as concerns the securing in life of our returned soldiers. I am not so much concerned with those who have acquired technical and other education,because they are not placed in the same position of responsibility as returned men who are settling upon the land. It is very necessary, therefore, that the soldiers should be represented on the Commission by some one who understands their immediate requirements in respect of land settlement. I have had occasion to visit two soldier settlementsin my electorate, and, although at present the men are more or less satisfied with their conditions, and are hopeful of their prospects, I am convinced that unless some person is appointed to the Commission who possesses an intimate knowledge of their needs, and a deep sympathy with them also, a great many of our soldier settlers will find it hard to carry on. They have set out in the hope that prosperity shortly awaits them. “We all know that the amount of money at their disposal is limited. Unless the new Commission possesses very deep sympathy with and an intimate knowledge of the requirements of new settlers, I fear that failure must face many. It has been stated that in many instances land has been acquired at more than its true value. In my own electorate that has been the case, but adjustments are being made, and the soldier settlers expect that the reappraisements will satisfy them in regard to values. The areas, in most instances, are insufficient. During the past year, many settlers in my district have had to battle against one of the most appalling droughts in the history of Australia.
Their cases will have to be reconsidered almost at once from a financial standpoint. Indeed, from time to time, the circumstances of the soldier settlers embarking upon production will require sympathetic revision. I would like to cite the case of the men established on the Kentucky settlement in my electorate. There are about 80 to 100 men, limited each to about 50 acres, and the provision made in the way of housing is insufficient at present-
– Order ! I have been waiting for the honorable member to connect his remarks with the amendment. So far, he has not done so. Hewill not be in order in speaking upon the general tenor of the clause itself.
– I thought we were discussing the question of the Commissioner to be appointed by returned soldiers.
– When the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) was speaking I directed his attention to the same matter.. The question of the appointment of a Commissioner is not before the Committee. The question under consideration is the omission of certain words relating to the class of returned soldiers who are to have a voice in the appointment of a Commissioner. The honorable member will have anopportunity of dealing with the broadquestion after the amendment is disposed of and the clause is under consideration.
-In that case I shall content myself by stating that I support the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon).
.- In my opinion,the amendment will do nothing to alter the position as set out in the Bill. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor),that all returned soldiers, irrespective of membership of organizations, should have a voice in the selection of the representative of the soldiers on the Commission, would have had a considerable effect, but seeing that it would entail a ballot, it is impracticable. Otherwise I would agree with it. The present proposal is to give to any small number of soldiers who form an organization of returned soldiers the right to nominate a representative for the consideration of the Minister for Re patriation. Such a body might not have more than one member in each State, but nevertheless it would be an organization of returned soldiers, and, under the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon), would be entitled to submit a nomination to the Minister. Thus innumerable nominations might be submitted, representative or not representative, of returned soldiers, and possibly the whole thing might result in chaos; but in any case it would not make a ha’porth of difference in the position. The amendment does not seek to take away the final right of the Minister for Repatriation to select the Commissioner who is to represent the returned soldiers, and it is obvious to every one that his selection will be made from one of the three nomineesof the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, which is the biggest organization of returned soldiers. The inclusion of the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) mightbe very useful to an honorable member oil the public platform, where hecould say, “ I advocated that you should have an equal chance for your organization “ ; but such a statement would not be correct, because actually nothing of the sort will occur. The amendment will not really alter the position one iota. Therefore I oppose it.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon). The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has given away the whole show, because the underlying principle of the clause as it stands is that theorganization which the Minister knows will give him the member of the Commission he desires to appoint is the only body he will recognise. I have nothing to say against the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, but they are not the only legitimate body of returned sailors and soldiers in Australia. There are quite a number of other organizations with very large memberships. There is one body in New South Wales which is in no way associated with the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, and its members are genuine returned soldiers who have all “done their bit.” I claim that they should have a say in the submission of nominees for the final selection ofthe Minister in the appointment of the returned soldiers’ representative upon the Repatriation Commission. If we restrict the area of selection, we shall possibly create a feeling of distrust among the great body of returned soldiers outside the Imperial League. We ought to demonstrate to the soldiers that they can have the utmost confidence in the Repatriation Commission; and, in order to do so, we should make provision that all soldiers shall have a voice in the selection of the men who comprise it. There is no danger in the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. If the Minister is afraid that some of the various organizations will recommend men who are incapable of carrying out the duties of Commissioner, the final selection lies in his hands, and he can reject any nomination he chooses. On the other hand, he ought to give all the returned soldiers, regardless of their political opinions, an opportunity of having a voice in the selection of the men who are recommended ‘to him for appointment. Is the great body of returned soldiers affiliated with the Labour movement, and standing behind this party, to have no say in the submission of names to the Minister? If the Minister is to adopt that attitude, he will build up difficulties for the Commission right from thebeginning. I hope that he will seriously consider the question of giving to every returned soldier, no matter what organization he belongs to - political, social, or otherwise - an equal opportunity of deciding upon the names to be submitted for selection as representative of the returned soldiers on the Commission.
.- The principleunderlying theclause is that the Minister for Repatriation must make the appointment; and, as the amendment does not attempt to interfere with his prerogative in this respect, I propose to accept it.
Mr. ANSTEY (Bourke) (12.11] . - I am not particular as to what the Minister does in this regard, hut I would like to take the opportunity of mentioning that the Government distinctly promised the soldiers that they would have a representative on the Repatriation Commission.
But, of course, they have no indention of letting them have anything of the kind. It is a farce to say to any one that he can submit a nomination. Representation means the election of one’s representative.
– The Bill sets out clearly that one of the three Commissioners must be a returned soldier.
– Just so ; but where is therepresentation if some one else selects the man? Representation means that the soldiers should have the right to elect their representative. The Bill provides that the organization may nominate some one to sit on the Commission; and, if the Government think him a fit person, they may proceed to appoint him.
– The Government must appoint some one.
– The Bill provides that the Government may do so. The men can go through the farce of nominating a particular individual, and when they have gone through that process the Government may, if they choose, accept one of the particular nominations.
– The Government will accept one of them all right.
– Of course. They may do so.
– Let the honorable member move to substitute “ shall “ for “ may.”
– If I do so, will the honorable member for Fawkner support me?
– The Government won an election largely, and “stormed the trenches,” on a proposition, in a manifesto issued to the soldiers in France, that they would havethe right to a representative on the Repatriation Commission. But now they do not propose to keep that promise.
– Yes, we do.
– I simply rose to remind . the Government of the promise they have made. I have no wish to pander to any particularsection for votes. I shall avail myself of the offer made by, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and with his legal talent and my own eloquence I am convinced that we shall induce the Government to make the amendmentdesired by us so that a man shall be directly elected by the returned soldiers to represent them on the Commission without interference by the Minister or anybody else.
– I had intended prior to the speech made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) to outline a further amendment which would give every returned sailor and soldier, quite independently of any organization, >a voice in the selection of a member of the Repatriation Commission. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has said that the proposition made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is impracticable. I would remind him, however, that there are members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League living in the most remote parts of Australia, and that even if a selection were made from, nominations submitted by the League, ballot-papers would have to be sent to these men just as would be necessary if the men were allowed, a direct vote on the question. I should like sub-clause 2 to be so amended that it would read -
A selection shall be made by the returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth of a person to be appointed as one of the Commissioners and the Governor-General shall appoint the person selected to be one of the Commissioners.
That would do away with any final selection by the Minister for Repatriation. Even if the clause were amended as proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) two or three men would be nominated by an organization, and from that number the Minister would make a final selection. That would not carry out in its entirety the promise made by the Prime Minister to our soldiers in France. I desire that our sailors and soldiers wherever they may be shall have an opportunity to elect their own representative on the Commission. In a later part of the Bill it is provided that if any Commissioner proves himself unfitted for the task he may be displaced, so that wc might safely make the amendment I have, suggested.
.- I have listened with interest to the speeches made on this clause, and am pleased that the Minister in charge of the Bill lias signified his willingness to accept the amendment proposed by. the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon). I have been a ‘prominent member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League from its inception, and was for some time on the council. At first I felt that that organization should represent the returned men in the selection of a representative on the Commission ; but we must realize that there are a number of men outside that organization who should have a vote. The amendment as accepted by the Minister will give every returned man in Australia an opportunity to join with his brothers in nominating certain representatives. Every man will have a chance to vote on the question, because there is nothing to stop a mafi from joining the League or some other body, which could put forward nominations from which the Minister would make a final, selection. The clause as proposed to be amended will carry out in its entirety the promise made by the Prime Minister that the men would be allowed to nominate their representative tin the Commission.
. I support the view put forward by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), because during my long political experience I have found that Ministers are ready to interpret the word “may” in an Act of Parliament in a mandatory sense when it suits them to do so, while in other cases they will not. In a Bill providing for the salary of the GovernorGeneral it was set out that it “may not exceed “ a certain sum. A member of the Labour party was successful in securing the substitution of the word “shall” for the word “ may,” with the result that later on when Lord Hopetoun, despite his splendid record, declared that the allowance of £10,000 per annum was insufficient, the little word “ shall “ prevented Australia being robbed of an additional £10,000 per annum for the GovernorGeneral. Under the clause as it stands the election of a representative of the soldiers on the Repatriation Commission would be as difficult as the election conducted for the Doge of Venice, in connexion with which candidates went before nine different committees before a final selection was made. If an officer and a ranker were nominated, would the Governor-General select the ranker?
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Mahon) agreed to-
That the words “ recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body”, lines 4 to ti, be left out.
– In order to give effect to the proposal I made a few minutes ago, I and it will be necessary to move for the omission of sub-clause 2. I therefore move -
That sub-clause 2 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ (2) A selection shall be made by the returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth of a person to be appointed as one of the Commissioners and the Governor-General shall appoint the person selected to be one of the Commissioners”.
– The sub-clause as it has been amended seems to me to carry out the promises that have been made to returned soldiers. The amendments accepted by the Minister have the effect of widening the provision to permit of any organization which may be representative of the whole of the soldiers submitting a list. Therefore, it W 111 be for the soldiers to make such arrangements as they may think proper for the purpose of the submission of names, much as is done in this State in connexion with the appointment of Wages Boards.
– In connexion with the appointment of Wages Boards, all those connected with an industry, whether unionists or not, have a voice; but the clause as amended allows only the members “of the recognised organizations to submit a list.
– The amendments which have been accepted permitof an organization being formed to represent the whole of the returned soldiers, and from its list of three names a selection will be made by the Minister. It has been suggested that we should provide that one of the three names so submitted shall be accepted by the ‘ Minister. To that there are two objections. The first is that the recognised phraseology of an Act of Parliament concerning the actions of the Crown or of the Crown’s representative is “ may,” not “ shall “ ; and, secondly, if we used the word “ shall “ instead of “ may “ we should do away with the Government’s responsibility for the selection, and it is desirable that the Minister shall be held responsible for these appointments. He ought to be accountable to Parliament for what he does in this matter. Every one knows, of course, that when provision is made for a nomination by an outside body it is the almost invariable rule of Governments to accept that nomination. In this case three persons are to be nominated, one of whom may be selected, but the Government should be made responsible for the selection. Any Government which failed to accept a nomination such as is provided for would, of course, bring upon itself much trouble, and that is a thing that Governments seek to avoid. Consequently, they are only too glad to recognise the spirit of a provision such as this. In my opinion, the provision as amended gives effect to the promise of the Government, and is couched in proper phraseology, and members may rest assured that the nomination will, in accordance with well-established practice, be accepted.
– I point out to the honorable member for Maribyrnong that he can move the omission of only so much of the sub-clause as has not been already dealt with by the Committee.
– If that be so, I have lost my opportunity. I understand that I cannot move to delete words which the Committee has determined shall remain in the sub-clause.
– You can vote against the clause.
– I do not wish to do that.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “that list,” in sub-clause 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “any list so submitted.”
.- My desire is that all returned men, whether members of an organization or not, shall have an opportunity to. join in the proposed nomination, though, in view of what the Chairman has just said, I cannot move now the amendment which I temporarily withdrew.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I cannot accept the sub-clause in its present form, because the amendments have done nothing towards providing for an appointment in accordance with the wishes of a majority of the returned soldiers. As the sub-clause stood in the first place, the Government could say what in its opinion was a representative or an authentic organization of returned men, but it has given way on that point, because the Minister recognises that he will still have the power of selection, which is really all that matters. The Government will make their selection from the list of the organizations which they wish- to patronize, and, this being so, their apparent concession in agreeing -to accept nominations from any organization is of no advantage. He will accept nominations from any organization, but he will make the selection from the organization he wishes to patronize.
– That was obvious from the outset.
– It was quite obvious to me; but I had hoped that, as a result of this discussion, the more democratic view would in some way be crystallized in language, and adopted. Effect ought to be given to the wishes of the returned soldiers in regard to this appointment. It is quite immaterial whether we say that the Governor-General “shall” or “ may “ appoint a Commissioner f rom among the men nominated by the soldiers, but we should ascertain what the majority of the soldiers desire, and give effect to it. I suppose this matter is not. likely to be re-opened, but if it is considered impracticable to take a ballot of all the returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth, whether or not they are members of organizations - and I can hardly understand the fanatical adherence of honorable members opposite to the principle of preference to unionists in this matter - we should, in the last resort, having got a number of nominees from the different organizations, create such machinery as will enable them to make a selection from amongst their number. The Governor-General might then appoint such person to be a representative of the soldiers upon the Commission.
– It is quite competent for the organizations themselves to come to some agreement.
– The various bodies may themselves agree upon one nominee, but if they do not - and I think it more than probable that they will not, because we know that there (vrc political antagonisms amongst returned soldiers, as there arc amongst others - patronage will ultimately rest with the Government. That was never intended. The intention was that this appointment by the soldiers should be real, and not fictitious. Therefore, I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and the honorablemember for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) in their efforts to secure a real choice by the returned soldiers, and not merely 3. nomination by the Government as to the particular organizations which shall berecognised.
.- I do not think the returned soldiers arebeing given a square deal. Would any honorable member support, in connexion, with the election of members to thisHouse, a system of allowing each constituency to nominate three persons from whom the Governor-General should1’ select one? Why should we introducesuch a system in connexion with the representation of returned soldiers? I prophesy that if by chance a ranker isnominated, the Governor-General will not appoint him, but that an officer will be chosen. I also prophesy that a friend of Chris. Watson will be appointed to one of the posts. The third Commissioner is likely to be a legal gentleman.
– I have already assured.’ the honorable member that there is notruth in the statement published in thepress regarding the -appointment of Commissioners.
– I am not speakingin a personal sense; but when I see a certain gentleman hovering about this building I know that something is to be doner in which he is interested, and that something is usually done as he wishes it. Only by allowing the soldiers to elect’ their own representative independent of the -Governor-General, who is here to-day and gone to-morrow, will the returned soldiers have complete confidence in the Commission. Let each man’s discharge be his elector’s right; and if a representative: is chosen by a -ballot of the soldiers, there will never be the slightest disclaimer by any of the organizations. The ballot isquite practicable, for the addresses of soldiers aTe known to the Department, and’, they should .be allowed to vote, by post. I warn honorable members that if the Government make the appointment, and therankers are given no representation, the soldiers as a body will not “be contented.
.- I have .noted a marked change in the opinions oi certain honorable members since the first Repatriation Bill was discussed in this chamber. When the original measure was before us, I pointed out that the great majority of returned soldiers at that time were outside .the organizations, and I was taken to task by certain members of the Opposition because I had the temerity to advocate that they should have some recognition in connexion with the appointment of the soldiers’’ representative on the administrative body. I remember the honorable member for Melbourne interjecting while I was speaking . that if a soldier was outside an organization, it was his own fault, and that he should be compelled to join.
– I cannot admit that.
– I refer the ‘honorable member to Ilansard. Honorable members “who, at that time, considered that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League should be the recognised mouthpiece of the soldiers, and should have the exclusive right of nominating representatives, are to-day advocating the very opposite policy .
– I have never adopted any attitude different from what I have said to-day.
– I deny the statement made by the honorable member for Corio.
– I am not in the habit of making misstatements. It is strange that men who always advocated unionism should desire to-day to do something which would ‘break the soldiers’ union.
– Does the honorable member say that I advocated that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League alone should make the selection ?
– The honorable member stated deliberately, by way of interjection, -that every soldier should be compelled to join the returned soldiers’ organization.
– I never said any such “thing, or if I did I must have been drunk.
– I have no objection to any man changing his opinions for the better. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League has a membership of approximately 145,000, of whom 45,000 «re in Victoria.
– I was informed by a. returned soldier yesterday that not onetenth of them will renew their subscriptions this year.
– When the original measure was before this House I said that not one-third of the men returned to that date were members of the league. I was then advocating the claims of the men outside the league, because I have always been opposed to compelling a man to join any body. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League is a recognised body which is representative of the returned soldiers, and any recommendation made by it to* the Government would toe acceptable to the general body of the soldiers.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Just before the luncheon adjournment I stated that, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) had,, in. an interjection, said that every returned soldier should be compelled to join the soldiers’ union. I find, on looking up Hansard, that I have misrepresented the case. I do not desire for one moment, to place the honorable member in a false light; I feel it my duty to offer the honorable member an apology for having made the statement. The interjection was made by some one, but it does not appear on the records. Any one who cares to look at my subsequent remarks ‘ on that occasion must realize that I was led into quite a different vein as a result of the interjection.
– I think the honorable member will agree that. I could not have been drunk on that occasion.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 (Remuneration of Commissioners) .
. - I should like to be informed by the Minister (Mr. Poynton) as to what remuneration the Government propose to pay the members of the Commission. The Government must have some idea, and it is better that we should know. The newspapers are already guessing - I say this advisedly - as to what the remuneration is likely to be, and suggesting that it will be £1,500 for the Chairman, and £1,000 for each of the other Commissioners.
– Supposing I say that the remuneration will be commensurate with the responsibilities of the position.
– I think the Committee ought to know what is in the mind of the. Government. Speaking from memory, in the case of the Public Service Act the salary of the Commissioner was fixed, and also in the case of the Inter-State Commissioners Act. We have been told by the Minister that much of the repatriation work has already been finished.
– I was speaking only of employment and vocational training; and these depend on circumstances.
– I hope the circumstances will prove to be such that the men will soon get back into private occupations. I do not know what the salary of the Controller is to-day, but if he is to have increased responsibilities, and, therefore, increased pay, we ought to know. The Cabinet must have made its mind up on the matter, for it is not one for the Department to determine. I trust that the very best men will be obtained for these positions, and we ought to know what they are to be paid.
– I indorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), because, in my opinion, Parliament and the country have not had that information which is their due. No doubt the initial stages of the repatriation scheme have been exceedingly important. We have been reminded by the Minister forRepatriation again and again that there were no precedents to go on, and that entirely new ground had to be covered. Surely the initiation of a scheme of the kind, the laying down of a broad plan of operation, is as important as any subsequent part of the business can be; and we ought to know the why and wherefore of this special Commission. Clause 11, which deals with the powers and duties of the Commission, infers that the members will have a direct responsibility, independently of the Minister, in initiating expenditure of amounts not exceeding £5,000. That, of course, is a big responsibility.
– Not for men with £1,500 a year.
– But we ought to know how far the principle of independence in this regard is to go, and I submit that we have not had sufficient information to satisfy the public or Parliament. I may say, indeed, that I have an open mind as to whether I should support the appointment of any Commission in the absence of more justification.
.– It always seems to me that members of Parliament do not take notice of one salient fact. Mr. Speaker receives £1,100, and is appointed only for the life of Parliament, or for so long as the party to which he belongs holds office. This officer, every three years, has to face the electors, whereas appointments such as we now are considering are generally made for a longer term - in this instance, five years. When Mr. Denison Miller was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the term was seven years, and that term was renewed by the Government when Parliament was in recess. Moreover, Mr. Miller’s relative, Mr. Kirkpatrick, is getting possibly thousands out of those unfortunate repatriated soldiers. Not only that, for there is a combine which includes an insurance company, and it is time to consider the two questions together. I shall certainly not vote for this clause unless the amount of the remuneration is set forth. Had it not been for the fixing of a certain sum of money in the case of the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun would have beeu given £20,000 a year instead of £10,000, which is the salary of the present Governor-General. This is not our money, but the money of the public; and it is only right that we should know how these officers are to be appointed, and how much they are to be paid. I am offering no factious opposition, but if the information I ask is not forthcoming, I shall be compelled to vote against the clause.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) wishes to know, amongst other things, why this Commission is proposed in substitution for the existing oneI point out that for a considerable time past there has been an agitation on the part of quite a number of honorable members, and of returned soldiers in particular, for paid Commissioners, and complaint about responsible duties being relegated to honorary Commissioners.
– Havethe Commissioners been selected already?
– They have not been selected.
– The newspapers say that they have.
– The honorable member knows, as well as any one, that what we see in the newspapers is not all gospel.
– As a rule, the newspapers are not “ far out.”
– I have stated three times already that there is no truth in the newspaper allegations in regard to the selections made; nothing is “cut and dried” in this respect. In regard to the remuneration, the salary of the Controller to-day is £900 or £1,000. In this connexion, I am in a difficulty, seeing that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has been unwell for two or three days, and unable to attend to his duties. However, I should say that the salary of the Commissioner would be £1,500, with £1,000 for each of the other Commissioners. It must be understood, however, that I am now speaking without “book,” or without anything having been decided.
– Surely you know what is in the mind of the Minister for Repatriation.
– I do not know what is contemplated in this matter, because for the last two or three days, I have had no opportunity to consult the Minister.
– What has the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to say?
– The Acting Treasurer could give no more information than I can.
– The newspapers set forth those very figures.
– All I say now is that such salaries would ‘not be excessive. The newspapers do not know what is to be paid. I regret I can give no more definite information.
– Are you talking in the first place of £1,500 a year for an expert man? I take it that the function of such a Commission is largely to control public expenditure, and see that we get the highest efficiency.
– Undoubtedly the Commission will in various ways have the handling of many millions of money. It is essential that we should have good men, and I do not think we can get them under the salaries I have mentioned.
– There seems to be a gene ral idea in the Committee that something further should be said about the powers and functions of this body. As the Minister (Mr. Poynton) has already pointed out, nothing has been arranged either in regard to the personnel or to the remuneration. One could not very well determine what remuneration to grant to a body until Parliament had settled what that body was to do. A wrong impression is liable to be created by the statement that the bulk of the work has already been done. What is meant by that, of course, is that the initial difficulties have been overcome. The organization has been set going. Considering all the difficulties incidental to building up this great activity out of the ground, wonderful work has been done. But only a beginning has been made, and our obligations along these lines will remain until every man has been repatriated in the fullest sense - that is, until vocational training has been completed, which may take some years to compass - and must continue until men have been set up, for example, on the land, and until the money lent for that purpose has been repaid. Every day we are creating fresh liabilities in all these respects, and there will be tremendous administrative functions for the new Commission. All that work is at its beginning. The earlier work of creating the organization, which has been one of colossal difficulty, has been performed. The administrative side of the Department is just opening out; and it was for thepurpose of creating an administrative body to carry on, now that the organization has been firmly grounded, that this Bill was framed.
– If the parties who created it have carried on to the satisfaction of the Minister, they should surely be considered when the new Commission is being appointed.
– The Government willsecure the best men it can find. If those men are in the Department, so much the better. I agree that, before going outside to look for ability, we must take care that we shall be securing better talent than exists inside. In the word ability, I include experience, administrative capacity, and many other things which go to make a first-class administrator. The mind of the Government is perfectly open upon these matters. Nothing has yet been arranged, so far as I know. No selections have been made. No one has been definitely and positively spoken of, and no salaries have been fixed.
That this body will have large and important functions to perform goes without saying. It will be a body corporate, to begin with. It may sue,, and be sued. It will be a body comparable with the various railway administrations, and will bear relationship to Mmisteriai control in the same broad sense as do Railway Commissioners. So far as the administrative side is concerned, it will act independently. For example, the Commission will co-ordinate, the activities of the States. It will be the final Court of Appeal from the subsidiary bodies set up in each State; and, generally, it will control and be responsible for all operations.
– Did the Minister say “ final Court of Appeal1 ”?
– Always subject to Ministerial veto, of course. What its precise and detailed functions may be will be determined later by regulations, and Parliament will have an opportunity of seeing and considering’ those regulations.
May I also remind honorable members that this body will? take over the administration of pensions. It will connect, consolidate, and co-ordinate all the activities relating to the soldier, as far as: possible. Thus, honorable members will see that there will be very important functions to perform. There are some things, of course, which will necessarily be determined by Ministerial authority. Take, for instance, the matter of the scale of benefits. That will be a question of Government policy; but the Government having laid down the broad lines of its policy, the Commission will be, so far as details of administration are concerned, the finalCourt. It will be the trustee of all the moneys issued from time to time. It will be responsible for collecting them; and for policing their expenditure. Generally, it will be for the Commission tot see that all the activities set up by the Government are faithfully and adequately performed. Therefore, wa ought to be prepared to pay what we must pay to secure such a. Commission. We should get our men first, and. get the best men, and then we should be prepared to pay them what we must in order to, secure them. Consideration of the amount of salary, when taken side by side with responsibility for millions of money, is, after all, comparatively minor. I hope honorable members will be assured, therefore, that the Government is fully alive to the importance of making the right appointments, and that they will be assured at the same time that we shall gravely and fully consider the payment of salaries commensurate with the duties to be performed.
– I differ from honorable members who contend that the financial responsibility of the Commission, namely, up to a sum of £5,000, is too wide. This factor has a close connexion with the question of salary. If the Commissioners are to be wholly under the control of the Minister, and may not expend even as much as £5,000 upon their own responsibility, what will be the use of paying them high salaries ? A first class clerk might as well be aippointed to run the aff airs of repatriation. I do not suggest that the Commission should have anything to do with matters of policy, but that it should be given full administrative powers. I hope its freedom of action, up to the disbursement of £5,000, will not be restricted. Unfortunately, Departments, and even Ministers, have a bad habit of evading their financial responsibilities through spending more than the authorized maximum by means of carrying out works in sections.
– This Commission may do the same.
– It may, but surely we are not going to force the Commission to submit every little project to the Minister. I repeat that if the powers of the Commission are to be almost entirely cut down, it will be absurd to pay high salaries. Naturally, the Commission should be bound to work upon the basis of the Government’s policy; but the Commissioners might as well be paid £500 a year if their duties are to extend no further than those of glorified clerks.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Commission should be empowered to make huge purchases entirely outside of Government control ?.
– -Certainly not. I have always contended that heads of Departments should be given financial responsibility on- a basis in proportion to the salaries paid them.
.- I asked the Minister a little while ago what were the intentions of the Government in respect of payment of salaries, and, in reply, the sum of £1,500 was mentioned. I presume that that would be the salary of the Chairman, and that the other Commissioners would receive a rather lower sum. Upon examination of the Estimates, I note that the Comptroller of Repatriation receives £900 per annum. The extraordinary fact is that two officials under the Comptroller, namely, the Principal Medical Officer and the Director of Vocational Training, each receive £1,000 per annum.
– We could not expect to get a good doctor for a lower salary.
– I do not say so either; but what an extraordinary position it would be if a factory manager were to be drawing a lower salary than his foreman.
– In certain administrative Departments we must often pay technical officers higher salaries than the amount received by the head of the Department.
– I say unhesitatingly that the Comptroller of Repatriation has not been paid as much as he should have received.
– I quite believe that. The Chairman of the Commission should at least receive as much as the most highly paid officer under him. I do not know of any such circumstances throughout the Commonwealth Service as exist in the Repatriation Department to-day.
– The same position arises in’ other Departments. We have had to secure specialists, but could not hope to do so if we were to offer the same scale of salary as applies to ordinary civil servants.
– At present the Comptroller is responsible to the Minister for the manner in which the Department is run, yet he has men under him who are receiving higher salaries. I have nothing to say as to the ability of those men. I believe that the Director of Vocational Training has very important work to carry out.
– He is an officer borrowed from the New South Wales Government.
– I believe that he is a very good officer, and it is important that the Department should employ the very best talent. I know that when the technical training of soldiers first com menced, the Department employed for part of his time the Director of the Melbourne Working Men’s College, who is a very excellent officer, and one who is wrapped up in the training of the youth of our country. We have to recognise that many of our returned nurses, as well as the widows and daughters of our soldiers who have lost their lives, are also receiving training. I think we ought to have more definite information from the Minister as to the remuneration to be paid to the Commissioners.
.- I understood the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to say that the Repatriation Commissioners would occupy a position similar to that of Railways Commissioners. I know that the Victorian Railways Commissioners can do many things without the necessity for consulting the Minister, and that they can carry on quite a number of operations quite independent of parliamentary control. Of course, so far as the Repatriation Commissioners are concerned, very much will turn upon what is prescribed. The words “as is prescribed ‘ ‘ appear very frequently in this Bill. If they feel so inclined, the Government may, by regulation, extend to the Commissioners control which Parliament never intended they should have. Therefore, I hope that every care will be taken in the selection of these gentlemen; otherwise, we may have cause to regret not limiting their powers.
– There cannot be efficient administration of am Act unless wide powers are given to the officials.
– It all depends upon the way in which the powers are prescribed. Very often Parliament gives away too much of the control it should retain to itself.
– Sub-clause 1 of clause 7 limits the powers of the Commission.
– To an extent it does; but -when the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said that they were to be similar to those of Railways Commissioners, I understood that they were to be very wide indeed. I hope every care will be taken in the appointment of these gentlemen, and that they will carry out their duties faithfully and well. Possibly, if they are. given exceptional powers, they may uproot much that has already been done, and initiate a new system.
– I would like to have the assurance of the Minister and the Government that the Commission will be subject to the control of the Minister in all matters of policy. I believe that it should have the powers which the Government seek to give it so long as every provision is made that those powers are administrative only, and do not apply to matters of policy, more particularly to the establishment of a new system of repatriation. In other words, I hope that in matters of policy nothing can be done without the sanction of the Minister.
-The Commission cannot do anything in the matter of policy without the sanction of the Minister.
– The Commission has nothing but an advisory power in the. matter of framing regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 -
– I move -
That in sub-clause 1 the word “ five “be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
– How are we to expect responsible men to give up the positions they occupy for a three years’ appointment?
– My reason for moving this amendment is primarily the announcement ‘ by the Minister for Repatriation in another place that much of the work of repatriation has been completed. Linked up with this work we have, as now provided in the Bill, the administration of war pensions. Technical and vocational training should all be completed in three years’ time. Neither the work of land settlement nor the administration of the War Service Homes Act falls within the province of these Commissioners. They will simply be called upon to carry out that branch of repatriation work directly undertaken by the Commonwealth. If this means that at the end of three years we are to have two Pension Departments in Australia, this Commission administering war pensions, and the Treasury administering invalid and old-age pensions, we are again setting up that dual system of control to which so much objection has been raised in Australia. My proposal to limit the term of office of these Commissioners to three years will not prevent the Government from renewing their appointments. The work of repatriation is a matter which has been created by the war, and is of a temporary character. I hope that we shall not perpetuate anyexpenditure that we can get rid of. We have heard it repeated over and over again that, as soon as possible, all expenditure associated with war activities will cease. That is my reason for proposing to limit the period of the appointment of the Commissioners. ‘The Minister has asked me how we can expect men to offer their services for such a limited term. That objection will not apply to Commissioners who are selected from members of the present Repatriation Staff, and as regards the gentlemen chosen from outside the Service, it will not be so much the terms of the appointment that will attract them as it will be a desire among the soldiers themselves to select men who can help to unravel their problems. No doubt the soldiers’ organizations contain very brainy men, who will come forward at a salary of £1,000 a year to help to solve the problems of repatriation for their comrades. In any case, Parliament should show some evidence of a desire to get rid of war expenditure and of needless departments as quickly as possible. I want to see the work effectively carried out for the balance of the period of repatriation, and if I thought that my amendment would in any way limit the eff ectiveness of the Commissioners’ operations, I would not move it.
– Is it necessary to fix any term of office?
– I think so, in regard to men drawn from outside the Service, but in taking a forecast of repatriation work, I cannot conceive that infive years time there will still be need for active administration. There may be the work of the collection of loans advanced to soldiers, and there will be the matter of the administration of the War Pensions Act, but I object to the inauguration of a new Department to deal with a branch of the work which is likely to. outlive the other activities of repatriation, and which means the creation of two Pensions Departments, and two sets of officers to do work which one Department could effectively undertake.
.- I havemuch pleasure in supporting the amendment.I might not have adopted thisatttitude if there had been an inversion of the order in which the clauses appear in the Bill. If, for instance, clause 11,. which deals with the powers the Commissioners will exercise, could have beenfully discussed at an earlier stage, so that the Committee could have had a knowledge of what those powers really would be, good’ reason might have been shown for appointing the Commissioners for the full term of five years-; but as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has pointed out, the activities of the Repatriation Commission may easily be totally unnecessary at the end of three years. In deciding this issue we have missed the point from the very beginning, largely owing to the fact that we commenced a process of setting out upon a voyage without any definite plans. The Minister for Repatriation in one of his early speeches said that he had determined tolet events shape his course. As the result of that policy we find the States to-day completely controlling what, from thefinancial point of view, is the most important part of repatriation. I refer to soldier settlement. If there were any means whereby the Commission could supervise land settlement and expedite the work of. the States in that respect, I should agree with the Minister that more than five years would elapse before the activities of the Commission ceased.
– But the Commonwealth does not control the laud.
-The Commonwealth, in handing over to the States the expenditure of millions of pounds in connexionwiththe settlement of returned soldiers on the land, surely ought to have retained some control over that expenditure, and the determination of the rate at which it should take place. I am the president of a Local Repatriation Committee covering two shires and two municipalities, and for the last eighteen months have been in active control of it. We have had men waiting for land for fifteen months, and have been unable to obtain any satisfaction from the ReturnedSoldiers Settlement Branch of the Lands Department of New South Wales. I do not suppose that we have onour books the name of a man who has not been ‘trying for at least six months to reach finality. No outside business concern would have handed over to another body the expenditure ofhuge sumsof money without retaining some control over it, and being represented by officers toexpedite the work and to see that the men got a fair deal. The position isthat men come back, anxious to go on the land, and keenly desirous of making homes for themselves. Unfortunately, owing to delay in dealing with their applications they have, month after month, to lounge about street corners or over hotel bars. Their applications are approved by the local authorities - by the Local Repatriation ‘Committees and by the local valuers - yet they cannot reach finality.
Mr.Rodgers. - Andmeantime the Commonwealth is paying sustenance money.
– All the time.
Mr.Fleming. - Does not the trouble arise from the fact that the States will not handover their land ?
– That may be so. At the inception of the repatriation movement, I put before the then Premier of NewSouth Wales (Mr. Holman), who in January of last year transmitted it to the Commonwealth Government, a proposition such as that advocated by the Empire Resources Development Commission in connexion with the extinction of the war debt of England, which would haveenabled the Commonwealth, by the simple process of resumption, to secure control of a certain area of land.
– Order! The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I am dealing with the question of whether the appointment of the Commission should be for three orfive years. If the Commission could deal with the establishment of industries there might also be some reason for a five years appointment. . Almost every day we readinthe press of demands byfarmers and others for the establishment of woollen millsand flour mills on aco-operative basis, and of appealsfor assistance made by them to the Minister for Repatriation. Is this Commission to have anything to do with such propositions.? I shouldlike, even at this late hour, to suggest that the money to be expended on repatriation has not yet been eaten into to such an extent as to prevent the adoption of a comprehensive and complete system of repatriation in certain parts of Australia which would enable the members of the Commission to hold office with satisfaction and credit to the country, not for five years, but for the whole of their lives. The money so far expended on repatriation has been distributed, with good intentions, sometimes wisely and sometimes unwisely ; but it is not going to be of any permanent benefit to the soldiers who have been assisted.
– Because of want of system.
– Absolutely. I would urge now, as I suggested some time ago to the Government of New South Wales, and later on to the Government of the Commonwealth, the adoption of a definite comprehensive scheme that would permit of the settlement of 50,000 or 75,000 soldiers in an area where already there are a certain number of homesteads, so that it would not be completely given over to soldier settlement. There occur to me immediately two suitable areas. One is in the Clarence and Richmond Rivers district, while another is in the southern part of New South Wales and the, northern part of Victoria. Each would’ lend itself to such a proposition. In both cases power plant, could be installed by harnessing water very cheaply. Eighty per cent, of the area consists of Crown lands, so that there ought not to be much trouble about its resumption. If a power scheme were developed, we should be able to establish not merely settlements of returned soldiers, but secondary industries-
– I must again ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon.
.- I am pleased that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has submitted this amendment, and that at least one member of the Country party has promised to support it. It is a fair and reasonable proposition, and, I think, will meet with the support of most members of the Opposition. We must not forget that this clause provides for the setting up of new administrative machinery. The Commission, under the amendment, will have three years to demonstrate its fitness for the work; and at the end of that time, if it has proved its usefulness, there can be no doubt that whatever Government is in power will re-appoint it for a further term. This House is elected for a period of only three years, and I think the amendment is a cautious provision to make. If it be agreed to, we shall be able later on to negative the clauses providing for the administration of the war pensions scheme by the Repatriation Department. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Branch of the Treasury is undoubtedly the best in the Commonwealth, and it should not be superseded by an outside body in the administration of war pensions.
– I shall support the amendment, since I am just as doubtful as I was previously as to the wisdom of appointing a Commission. Its success or otherwise must depend upon the developments of the immediate future. There are three sections of repatriation work. In the first place, we have vocational training, which,, under ordinary conditions, should come to an end some five years hence. Then we have the war pensions section, and finally the section dealing with the building of homes. It is very doubtful whether the war pensions system could be better administered than it is by the Treasury at the present time.- We are not likely to have in the Repatriation Department men who will give greater satisfaction than have the Treasury officers who have been charged with the administration of the war pensions scheme up to date.
– The medical service side of the Department will extend over far more than five years.
– Do we need a Commission to deal with the medical side?
– I think so.
– I disagree with the right honorable gentleman. The medical side will not be difficult to handle. My trouble is in regard to the homes construction branch of the Department, in connexion with which we need to have men of splendid qualifications. The Department has made up its mind that in Victoria it can do this work more effectively and more cheaply itself than by letting contracts. I am not in a position at the present moment to show that that is so ; but I remind the Minister that things may change considerably. Under the present abnormal conditions, the Government may be justified in the course that it is taking in Victoria, but three or four years hence things may be very different. In South Australia, 500 homes have now been completed, and contracts have been let for another 500. I ask the Minister to send one of his officers to see what is being done- there under the contract system. If he does so, it will be found that the houses are cheaper and better built than those that are being put up in Victoria. The ceilings, instead of being 9 feet high, are nearer 12 feet.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the amendment.
– I know what the report will be if the Government sends a competent officer to South Australia. If the work is to be done by the Department, the best and most efficient .administrator is needed to supervise it, and such a man cannot be got for £1,500. Indeed, we could afford to pay £5,000 for the right man. I ask the Minister whether the Commission is not to be responsible for this work ?
– Then make the term three years, instead of five years.
. - I am in favour of the amendment. At the commencement of the repatriation activities, I urged the Minister to adopt the system, which he is now adopting ; but it seems to me to be rather late in the day to make these new proposals. The foundation work of repatriation has now been practically finished, and it has been carried out, so far as the Central Administration is concerned, by the Minister and his principal officer, who has been drawing a salary of only £900 a year. Now it is chiefly the finishing work that remains; yet for that is proposed the appointment of a Commission, consisting of a chairman, to receive £1,500 a year, and two others at £1,000 a year each; so that we shall be paying £3,500 for routine and supervisory work, which, as every one knows, is much easier than the laying down of foundational principles.
– We have Commissioners now, and the new Commissioners will take their place.
– The present Commissioners are honorary, and we have to pay only their expenses.
– There will still he the extra Minister for Repatriation.
– He will be needed for the present. My objection is that we are setting up quite unnecessarily a costly Department for which there is not sufficient work. Senator Millen has said over and over again in public that the business of getting the men back to their civil occupations is practically finished, and even if he had not said it, we ourselves would know that to-day there are comparatively few of the 300,000 soldiers who returned who are still looking for employment. Only some 25,000 men still remain to be repatriated. Yet it is at this stage that we are asked to authorize .a very costly new system. Senator Millen and his officials have earned the thanks of the community for the efficient manner in which they have carried out the difficult work of organizing the Repatriation Department. The difficulties of that work have been nearly surmounted, and what now remains to be done is merely the amending of regulations, the extension of benefits, and mere routine work that does not call for the great capacity for organization that was needed in the early stages of repatriation. Therefore it seems to me that the proposal of the Returned Soldiers Association, which is what we are now considering - because I .am sure that if the Cabinet, unshackled by promises, could look only at the work of repatriation in its present stage, this proposal would not be before Parliament
– The honorable member should go to Queensland.
– The representatives of each State must speak for that State. My experience is that the greatest complaints in respect of repatriation concern land administration. At the’ beginning, when I urged that if we found money for land settlement, weshould control the spending of it, or at least have a voice in its expenditure, we were told that the States owned the land, and that they must be allowed to carryoutthat work. But it is the Commonwealth that is now getting theblamefor inefficient landsettlementadministration,and it isthe soldiers who are sufferingfrom it. There is,however, nothing inthe Bill to arm the Commissioners with power to interfere. If there were, there might be somejustification for their appointment. I see no justification f or the expenditure contemplated in the Bill, which is to extend over a period of five years. Personally, I do notthink that therewill be work for the Commissioners for a period of three years, unless thepayment of pensions is handedover to them as anexcuse for the continuance of their office. The pensions work is now being done efficiently; fewer complaints come to us in regard to the Pensions Department than in regard to any other. But now, after probably 75 per cent. of the pensions workhasbeen done, we are asked to create a new staff to take over duties that are now being performed efficiently by other officers. That is not economical, and the change is not warranted by the facts of the case. No reason has been given why the present pensions arrangements should be disturbed in order to find work for these Commissioners, who otherwise will have very little to do. Personally, I am prepared to vote for a three years’ term, in order that the Government may keep thepromises made at the election, and to the Returned Soldiers League, but I am not prepared at the present time to go beyond that.
– It seems to me that the numbers are up, and therefore I must with great reluctance accept the amendment, though it will materially limit our selection. Still, I do not wish to prolong discussion when honorable members have made up their minds. I wish I could take as sanguine a view as those who say that we are in sight of the end. I have pointed out that, in regard to finding employment, we are nearing the end ; but there is much other work for the Commission to do on behalf of the returned soldiers. I have had as much to do with repatriation as any member.
– To hear that everything is satisfactory in the Pensions Branch surprises me.
– That is the case inNew South Wales.
Mr.POYNT0N. - It iscomplained that, at present,information respecting pensions has tobe sought under twoor three different roofs, and that the war pensions administration is ondifferent lines from those followed in regard to oldage and invalid pensions.
– It ismy experiencethat pension matters aredealtwith more promptly, and finalized more quickly, than anyothers.
– That is the experience in Victoria, too.
– That may be so, because it is often easier to deal with a pension application than with someotherapplications that maybe made on behalfof a returned soldier. I do not wish to speak on the land question, because it is not dealt with in the Bill. I think that if the amendment is carried, we shall, at the end. of three years, have to re-appointthe Commission.
.- WhenI first saw the Bill, I was inclined to think the provision for a five years’ term a fair one. I was surprised to learn by the speech of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that this Bill is the result of promises made by Cabinet to the Returned Soldiers League.
– No. I said promises made at the elections.
– To the Returned Soldiers League.
– I said, “made at the elections.” The Government, during the election campaign, accepted the proposals of the Returned Soldiers League.
– I have never, since I have been a member of this House, made a private promise to any organization. The honorable member for Illawarra stated that if the Cabinet considered this matter untrammelled by the promises it made to the Returned Soldiers League, we should have a different Bill.
– I said “ made at the elections.”
– To the Returned; Soldiers League.
– No. The promise to accept the scheme of the Returned Soldiers League, made to every one who would vote: for the Government.
– If the honorable mem ber wishes to alter his statement, I am willing to accept the alteration.
– I do not wish to alter it. The Hansard record will be correct
– I do notsuggest that the honorable member would alter the Hansard record of a statement definitely made. I have no intention of delaying the Bill, and later I shall be prepared to move an amendment leaving the administration of pensions as it is to-day. I congratulate the honorable member for Wannon on the victory he has obtained, and I hope that on subsequent clauses also, the Minister willbe found in a better frame of mind, so that this Bill may be made as perfect as possible before it leaves this Chamber.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 -
– I move -
That the words “ or as are prescribed “ in sub-clause. 1 be struck out.
If the amendment is carried the Commission will be able to exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred upon it by this Act. That authority is wide enough.
– The sub-clause us at present worded is most dangerous. It would allow the operations of the Commission to exceed the provisions of this measure.
– That wouldbe a dangerous power to give. The Commission would have authority to do things that are not contemplated by the Bill itself.
– I cannot recollect that in any Bill introduced by a Labour Government they ever tied themselves in any way.
– I cannot recall any measure introduced by a Labour Government which included words such as those to which I am taking exception: Of course in most measures there is the usual clause empowering the Governor-General to make regulations consistent with the Act; that is quite right, but the powers proposed to be given by this sub-clause are far too wide. The words “ or as are prescribed” would enable the Commission to do anything; it could construct a railway from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin under the authority of the Repatriation Act.
.- The caution which the Committee has received from the Leader of the Opposition should’ be seriously considered!. The words which he has proposed to strike out would give to the Commission powers which no honorable member would be agreeable to give. We all know that regulations by the bucketful can be issued so long as they comply with the Act; the Privy Council decided in a Queensland case that the Executive may issue any regulation that does not exceed the powers conferred by the Act. The Committee should be careful to not insert in the Bill a power that may not be in accordance with the wish of the Parliament. The Commissioners would not be infallible, and we should ‘beware of giving them unlimited authority. Unfortunately, duringthe last few years there have been too many Commissions and regulations, and Parliament has been ignored. The amendment represents a wise precaution.
– The Committee need to have no fear of the wording of the sub-clause. The words to which exception has been taken are essential in order to give a certain elasticity in the carrying out of the general purposes of the Act.
– Will this subclause enable the Executive to pass regulations that are not in conformity with the Act?
– All the regulations must be in conformity with the Act. Prescribed “ is a technical term, and is defined by the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904 as meaning “prescribed by the Act or by the regulations under the Act.” The Commission will have the powers which are already expressly contained in the Act. Only a limited number of powers are specified as being vested particularly in the Commission ; for instance, the Commission has power to make recommendations to the Governor-General in Council. The Executive must he responsible for everything that is done by regulation. We have’ provided that the Commission shall, subject “ to the. control of the Minister,” be charged with the administration of the Act. The idea is to vest in one body many powers which at present are scattered through various Departments. We are endeavouring to vest in one authority all matters relating to administration, but always subject to Ministerial control. The powers of the Commission will be those set out* in the Bill, and such others as may be prescribed. They will be mostly in connexion with administration.
– This is only allowing the Executive to prescribe powers within the terms of the Act.
– Exactly. It is essential in administration to have some elasticity, or otherwise we may find ourselves at a “dead end.” For instance, in the Census Act it is provided that the Governor-General may appoint a statistician who ‘shall have such powers, and perform such duties, as are conferred upon him by regulation.
– But this Bill goes much further. ,
– The Statistician has not the spending power of the Commission.
– Because the Statistician is in an entirely different position. However, the words “ such as are prescribed “ mean only such regulations as are made in accordance with the Bill.
– The Bill’ is the very source of the power.
– We cannot go beyond the Bill, and it would be a mistake, in the interests, of the Department, and of the soldiers themselves, if we were to take away this essential elasticity.
– I oppose the amendment because, after hearing the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), I think it necessary that the words should be retained. As to the powers of the Commission, I should like to give some illustrations of where improvements could be made in .administration. In the case of the soldier settlers, particularly on the Yanko irrigation area, the Commonwealth Government make available to the State Government of New South Wales an amount equal to £625 for improvements, but the men are not allowed, to spend this money as they like. They cannot buy the particular, class of farming implements which they think suitable, whereas civilian settlers on the same area, with the same grant from the State Government may purchase their implements at discretion. Then, again, as we know, men who intend to get married are given a furniture grant, but those who go on the land, and are also desirous of getting married, have- to purchase the furniture out of the £625.
– The men in the town are given only £35 for furniture.
– That would be of assistance in the country, too.
– Much furniture cannot be purchased for that amount now.
– That is so; but a small amount is better than nothing. Another source of complaint is that different rates of sustenance allowance are paid in town and in country. In the country only a small amount is allowed, on the principle, I believe, that the men who receive it are not so much under the supervision of the officials as are the men in the city. The absence of Local Committees to supervise these men is no reason why they should not be paid the same amount as are the men in the city. I can bear out what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said in regard to the war service homes. I am sure that all who have seen the homes are convinced of the fine work the Commission is doing ; but no honorable member has mentioned the most pleasing feature, namely, that every man employed in the building of such homes, in most centres, is a returned soldier who has been vocationally trained. That speaks volumes for the efficiency of training, and no doubt does much to overcome the difficulty of the shortage of labour.
.- Despite the. explanation of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) I must support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). The issue of regulations such as we have seen so frequently in the past, seems to be threatening the very basis of parliamentary government. The Government are the executive of the country, but, still, they ought to be responsible to Parliament for more of their actions than they are at present. The Government are given too much authority under clauses which empower them to prescribe regulations, and, in my opinion, they should not have any more power than Parliament is prepared to give them. In spite of what the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has told us, I venture to say that, under this clause, the Commission will go much further in its activities than, perhaps, we are prepared to allow. The repatriation scheme extends into many branches of our national life, and as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said, the Commission, under the powers proposed, might even build a railway, seeing that they have to find employment. It is absolutely necessary that the Commission should be restricted within the four corners of the Bill, and if the measure does not prove sufficient for its purposes, the Government can come to Parliament and seek an amendment.
.- I understand that the Government do not propose to accept the amendment, and I. hope it will be rejectedby a large majority of the Committee. The tendency this afternoon is altogether to restrict too much the powers and authority given by the Bill. There must be a certain amount of elasticity in all Acts of Parliament) and we have been told by a legal member of the Government that nothing can he done by the Commission outside the four corners of the Bill. Under the circumstances, I see no reason for any fear, and, moreover, I regard this as one of the chief clauses in the Bill. I am glad to see that the Government intend to co-ordinate as far as possible the whole of the activities in connexion with repatriation. If anything, indeed, Iregret that the Government Have not gone much further, and dealt more definitely with the land settlement phase. Until land settlement is brought directly under the control of the Commissioners we shall continue to have disastrous delays and disappointments. At the same time, I protest against any restriction of the powers of the Commis sioners under the Bill. The whole measure is an enlargement of thefunctions of repatriation ; it is a broadening of the scope and benefits to the men who are to receive their just reward, and I hope nothing will’ be done in the way of restricting the administration. Progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House- do now adjourn.
– Rumours are being circulated in my district with respect to the shipbuilding yard at Williamstown. We have been told that the firm of Vickers has made an offer to purchase the establishment, thus doing away with Government control. Also it has been stated that Thompson and Company Proprietary Limited, of Castlemaine, intend to purchase the Williamstown yard. My constituents feel that they would be far better off if the Government were to continue shipbuilding activities. There is also the announcement of the Government with” respect to the 12,000-ton ships, none of which is to be built in Victoria. It has been stated that Williamstown is not fitted for the construction of such largo v essels, but experts have assured me that ships of much greater dimension than have so far been constructed there could be successfully built and launched. Can the Government furnish an assurance of their intention to continue the shipbuilding industry in my electorate, and to do so more extensively rather than cut down activities?
– There are only two yards in Australia under present conditions capable of building the larger typo of ship indicated. Those are at Walsh Island and at Cockatoo Island. It does not follow, however, that larger ships than have hitherto been constructed, cannot be built and launched at Williamstown. I have been assured that for a limited expenditure an 8,000- ton vessel couldbe turned out at Williamstown. It has been officially considered that the Williamstown yard could be fully utilized for the building ofthe smaller types of vessel, and that the other yards, which are capable of turning out the bigger ships, should be devoted to that’ purpose. With respect to the rumours indicated by the honorable member, the Prime Minister has just handed me a note, upon readingwhich I understand that an offer has been made for theWilliamstown yard. I take it that Cabinet will consider the matter.
.- This is n vary serious position. Whatan outcry would be raised in any of the States if, for example, an announcement were made respecting offers for the private purchase of the railway workshops. If there is one thing in the world which trade and commerce requires, it is the construction of more ships. What will become of the Williamstown industry if the Government hand it over to private interests? Surely Parliament will be given an opportunity of considering the proposition before anything drastic is done.We have been informed only recently that private enterprise has hot been able to build as cheaply in other parts of the world as Government employees have been able to do here. The ships constructed in America, and which theCommonwcalth Government returned to those who had built them, were such that the private parties concerned would not take delivery.
– The trouble is that they did so, and worked the ships for many trips and made huge profits, and that then they returned them instead of accepting and paying for them.
– I believe that was the case.
– I desire to correct a wrong impression which I had gained by a hasty reading of the Prime Minister’s note. I find that the message is to the effect that no offer has been received for the purchase of the Williamstown yard. Honorable members, no doubt, will be relieved. No departure will be made from the Government’s present policy there. If an offer of such a nature had come to hand the Government would have consulted Parliament before taking definite action.
– I am very glad to hear that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200416_reps_8_91/>.